SEATTLE — Over several months, a member of the Russian Parliament spoke to his son in a secret code over a federal prison telephone as they discussed plans to tamper with a witness, delay the son's trial and possibly devise an escape, according to federal prosecutors.
In the conversations, the father, Valery Seleznev, referred to people he brought in to help Roman Seleznev in his federal hacking case as "magicians" or "doctors" who could "create a miracle called 'The patient got into the hospital in a wrong way, so he needs to be released from the hospital,'" prosecutors said in a document filed Monday.
The conversations also included unexplained code such as "Uncle Andrey's option."
The recordings prompted officials at SeaTac Federal Detention Center to alert the U.S. attorney's office and U.S. Marshals in Seattle about safety and security concerns.
The allegations came in the case against Roman Seleznev, 31, who is charged with hacking into U.S. businesses to steal credit card information that authorities say he later sold on a website. He has pleaded not guilty to the 40-count indictment.
The Russian lawmaker claims his son was kidnapped by U.S. Secret Service agents in the Moldives and reassured him during recent conversations that they would use political, legal and other methods to get him released.
At one point during the jail conversations, federal officials say, Roman Seleznev told his father their talks had resulted in tightened security measures. The documents say Valery Seleznev responded: "'What can we discuss? Your escape plan or what?'"
The consul general of the Russian Federation in Seattle and Seleznev's lawyer Angelo Calfo did not respond to messages Thursday seeking comment.
They've discussed the possibility of exaggerating Seleznev's medical condition to force prison officials to move him out of the facility for treatment. Roman Seleznev suffered a head injury in a 2011 suicide bombing in Marrakech, Morocco, and receives medications in prison, records show.
Transcripts of the recordings came to light when prosecutors used them in a response to a Seleznev motion asking the judge for permission to file some documents on his own while keeping his court-appointed lawyers for his trial. Prosecutors said the recordings revealed that he has lied and used other means to try to manipulate the court process.
"The government has obtained evidence that suggests defendant has been intentionally engineering conflicts with his court-appointed attorneys for the purpose of delaying these proceedings," the document said.
In addition, Valery Seleznev has told his son that he is securing help from people in France and Minnesota "who are not licensed to practice law or admitted to practice before this court," prosecutors said.
Seleznev's lawyers responded by asking the judge to prohibit prosecutors from receiving, reviewing or using the conversations in their case against him. Seleznev is a Russian national with no friends or family in Washington state, and it's natural for him to speak with his father about his defense, the lawyers added.
"The court should level the playing field and stop the government from taking unfair advantage of Mr. Seleznev's inexperience and his pre-trial incarceration to gather intel on Mr. Seleznev's defense strategy," the lawyers said.
Prosecutors said it's clear from the recordings that both father and son know the calls are being recorded. They said the recordings are important for security purposes and possible for the safety of witnesses.
In November, the Seleznevs began talking about who might appear at the trial, and Roman Seleznev said "did you understand who said bad things about me? All those lies." Valery Seleznez assured his son that he would "have a serious talk about it."
"Something has to be done about it," the senior Seleznev later said, according to the documents.
Prosecutors said they've reviewed the recordings and coordinated with law enforcement to ensure the safety of witnesses.
Martha Bellisle on Twitter: https://twitter.com/marthabellisle